Autonomous Collective Liberationism

I’ve always struggled with what to label myself. I’m a registered Democrat for the sake of voting and other sorts of civic participation, but two parties really isn’t enough, and they’re only a little less openly racist than the Republicans (though I will not pretend there’s no difference between the parties).

But Democrat isn’t really an ethos. It’s a party affiliation.

Liberal was once a title with a strong history, but it’s unfortunately been perverted into cowardice by those who favor inaction over justice. There are certainly some righteous folks who call themselves liberals – we can’t paint everyone with one broad brush – and I won’t bite the political hand that fed and raised me. But I think it’s long since lost the power it once had. It’s an insult from both the left and the right. It’s a no-win proposition.

Progressive? It’s not bad. It aligns with a lot of what I believe in. But, again, I find that the people in the movement can be really terrible at certain forms of oppression. There are far too many racist and sexist progressives, and you can say that the worst of any group doesn’t invalidate the title, but that’s not how I get down, man. I don’t want a big part of it.

This is more or less how I feel about calling myself a Democratic Socialist. Great ideas, great folks, some real racists who think that marginalized groups supporting their own folks is bad. Among both progressives and DS folks, there is the legitimate idea that “GirlBoss” unaware support of women can lead to the support of women with terrible policies. But to dismiss intersectionality whenever something other than class is centered is reductionist, sexist, and racist, and there’s far too much of this among these groups in their rhetoric, even if their policies are generally sound. So while I don’t much disagree with their policies, I disagree with their approach, and approach matters to me.

So what of Socialist or Communist generally? Again, the policies that support a truly egalitarian society are those that I agree with. But I am not at all fond of authoritarianism, and many leftist societies aren’t any less prone to this, which leads to people support leftism of any sort, even when led by dictators. This is not to say that traditional politicans aren’t just as bad! They are! It’s just that, you know, there are ways to really support people without authoritarianism.

Would I go so far as to espouse Anarchism? I agree with many of the tenets. I no longer believe that the state is the best way forward. But I remain skeptical that, had this current situation occurred, full self-governance would have been able to coordinate a response. Maybe I’m just naive, but although I’d rather we had no prisons and no police and many fewer nonsense laws, a very minimal state for emergencies, chosen among the people to serve them and coordinate to avoid chaos.

I’ve looked into things called libertarian socialism and left-libertarianism and a lot of complicated mash-ups and finally I just wanted to pick my own labels.

I think we are in a transformative time, for better or worse. Trump and his clowns could use our eventual recovery as justification to turn this into Gilead and slaughter reporters and intellectuals and so on. But as much as they like power, deep down, I think that guy wants to be liked by the smart people who don’t like him. I think there’s a difference between him and someone who had the singular drive to commit active genocide. Passive genocide, sure, but holocaust-type things require effort, and dude is lazy. That may be the only reason we have a chance to survive this with a chance to continue to accomplish things.

I say all this to say, what I finally came to believe in is what I call Autonomous Collective Liberationism. I think you need all three of those to forge the future we all deserve.

You need Autonomous because, although selfishness is a massive issue, if we don’t give people options about what they themselves can go, provide them with ample agency, and remove hierarchies, we don’t get anywhere.

You need Collective for obvious reasons, that society will be split into a very American style of small uncooperative groups without it.

But you also need Liberationism because you can seek collectivist goals while remaining oppressive. If you seek collectivist goals without specifying liberation, the oppressed wll remain as such with no end in sight. Otherwise, traditionally collectivist societies would have no oppression, and we all know that that’s not the case.

This is the very best way I can conceptualize my politics and my goals in life. I fall short, I will continue to, but Autonomous Collective Liberationism is what I believe in, and also what I made up out of whole cloth to describe my beliefs, because I think we’d all do well to define our views our own way.

New episode!

There’s a new podcast episode! I bought a new microphone too but you won’t be hearing me use it until April so stay tuned for that!

I am getting closer to getting to do some real research to help out my longterm goals.

The stress of this current situation is upsetting, and I hope for the very best for the respiratorily vulnerable (that’s not a real word, but okay). I am going to do my best to stay productive as that’s my best way to avoid anxiety.

Lessons for Ezel

I’m not going to let Ezel take until he’s 32 to figure out what I did about race.

I’m not sure how he’ll be seen. He’s black, but who knows how dark he will be. Still though, I was 32 before I accepted the reality of how race and racism had shaped me, and that’s way too late.

My parents tried. Maybe I can’t do it for him and he’ll have to learn it for himself. I can be of more use in his schooling, if he’s anything like me and the kids think he’s annoying.

I just want him to be able to avoid the bad parts of what I’ve lived through, and not to feel that intense pressure to be accepted by the majoritized. I almost lost my whole soul trying to chase something that was imaginary. I hope, through my guidance and my work, I can ensure he always keeps his.

Tescher Problems indeed

I’m not going to link it, but if you go on twitter and look up #tescherproblems, you should find what I’m talking about. Yes, that spelling is intentional, because the tweet includes a typo.

There’s this account, ostensibly a humorous one, that talks about Teacher Problems. Monday, it asked its many followers for things students say that are annoying, using “I ain’t trippin'” as an example. Plenty of people (including me) pointed out that this was a common phrase in AAVE (African-American Vernacular English), though some would contend that the name AAVE is discriminatory. Point being, though, that there is nothing wrong with it.

The account would probably claim it’s just a joke. To me, the real problem is that so many (white) teachers agreed with it and added other things that seem to genuinely annoy them, such as “bruh,” and “you’re doing too much,” all examples of common AAVE phrases.

I can bet you that the teachers that did this don’t think they’re racist. In fact, they probably think that, by virtue of teaching kids of color, they’re immune from racism. Indeed, this is an example of how the altruistic shield works, because it protects them from any self-reflection and criticism that might force them to evolve.

I see this a lot though, not just on twitter. I have had friends who were public school teachers who made jokes about their students’ names. Colleagues who joked about the choices clients made. And I can bet you if I point out that these comments are demeaning and perpetuate oppression, they’d just tell me I had no sense of humor and freeze me out.

We’re all educators. We need to love our students. I’m not immune to finding this stuff funny, I surely did ten years ago, but not anymore. I think the first rule of education is to love your students, and it’s a shame that so few of us seem to show love and respect to everyone we teach.

Latest Episode and Thoughts on Two Trains

First of all, new episode is up. You should listen!

Second, I posted recently about which angle I want to take in my research. To remind you, I’m circling white antiracist language teachers as research participants, but also interested in the sort of meta-topic of how to make innovative public scholarship more effectively so. Will this strain bear more fruit, or will it be my more traditional research? Do I need the more traditional research for legitimacy, yet the meta-topic might have a large impact?

Fact is, I have to do the traditional research to graduate, so it’s getting done. And my twitter feed, this website, and my podcast, can serve as informal research on public scholarship. I guess time will tell as to what has had more resonance for more people.

Which Angle?

Most of my writing and eventual research comes from the angle of different types of racial theory, mostly because of the central conflict of my life, the desire for acceptance and refusal thereof in white spaces, regardless of my family income, and the resultant belief that it was silly to consider racism because of my social class.

Consequently, and especially because I care deeply about plenty of individuals with money, it’s more comfortable for me to focus on race while bringing in other forms of oppression alongside it. My work must be intersectional (though I hesitate to use that word, since that was specifically about being a woman of color when it was introduced) or it is of no use.

I worry sometimes that my focus on race will obscure the need for class reform and gender equity and the like. But I also know that I am not a credible messenger on topics with which I have little experience. I seek to include many forms of oppression in my work, but my angle will remain tied to race (and whiteness specifically) and, honestly, in this country, we are so bad at dealing with race that there’s plenty of work to be done in that realm.

But I do want to be clear that advocating for antiracist ideals does not mean I will pretend that we don’t also need to fight misogyny, ableism, and, of course, capitalism. They’re all tied together, but we can only use but so many lenses at a time or else the argument becomes muddlged and unclear.

Just know that the liberation I seek is expansive, even if the angle is specific.

New Episode and some real growth

In the latest episode (which you can listen to here), I speak to a fellow podcaster about our experiences hosting and working in ELT as racialized professionals. You should listen.

BUT.

At the end of this episode, we really went hard. We talked about the issues with “diversity” and “social justice” and even “white privilege” and the way they’re used as surface solutions that avoid true risk. It feels, upon listening, that I am coming into my own as a critic and an analyst, and I’m excited to see what happens going forward.

On Friendly Racism

I remember in Korea, when I went to karaoke (or, noraebang) with my colleagues, they often instructed me to “do rap.” At one other point, they were genuinely curious about the lyrics to “Empire State of Mind” and had me go over every reference in the song.

At other times, here in the States, I’ve had friends make jokes about race that, had we not been friends, would have absolutely been classified as hateful. And I don’t claim to be immune to doing this myself, because it’s ultimate a part of the American language, the burning desire to push boundaries on social topics.

What does this mean, though, this sort of “friendly racism?” None of the people I’m speaking about wanted harm to come to me, and I doubt any of them even voted for the current President. I think if I pointed this out to them, they’d be horrified and apologetic (which is its own topic, but still).

It’s easy to avoid people who clearly do not see you as in possession of full humanity. But what of the people who want to connect with you in some ways yet make use of this language?

I think the issue is a very sad one. For most people, most who haven’t really sat with the realities of race and racism, these sort of “jokes,” this type of “edgy” humor, is, at its heart, an attempt to release the tension they feel around the topic of race. But instead of learning what is correct to say, they create distance by being disrespectful (they’d call it “funny,” but no).

It’s too simple to just say “screw these people,” because that won’t address the issue in any way. Sure, distance yourself, call them out, but what makes it so that people who do actually care feel the impulse to debase themselves in such a way?

Ultimately, I think, especially for white people, this comes from a lack of deep racial identity, a mindset where, since they do indeed lack active antipathy for people of color, they feel guilt and confusion and discomfort, and this sort of humor is easy and comforting. I get it. For me, at least, I see how this happens on other axes of privilege that I have (gender, class, ability). I don’t make these sort of “jokes” anymore, but surely so when I was younger and less mature. In a way, I lacked the language to connect with people in marginalized groups without resorting to negative behavior. And I think this is common.

This doesn’t make it okay. But the real culprit here is a society and an educational system that doesn’t force us to consider our identities as oppressors. I didn’t say “feel guilty about,” because we’re pretty good at that. But truly considering our oppression – instead of learning about oppression in the abstract or as a history lesson – and understand how we need to evolve to counteract the oppression within us and around us is a vital task for all of us, especially those of us who are in education.

When I think about my colleagues in Korea, for example, they would have no reason to follow these patterns if we exporters of the English Language did not promote a framework in which asking marginalized people to perform their race was acceptable.

In some ways, I find that the “friendly” racism is the most challenging to defeat, because they could do so much better. But until then, people will just keep making themselves comfortable at the expense of those who’ve already suffered far too much.

 

New Podcast episode and planning

First of all, there’s a new podcast episode up today. It’s hard to hear what I am saying because I was mumbling, but my guest, who is the real showcase, is crystal clear. So check it out.

I have 4 or 5 people interested in appearing on the show, and I already have a future episode (of just me) recorded and ready to go.

My hope is to record 4 or 5 more before school starts again in late January, and then use my “headstart” so I can still be posting them every other week after my child is born.

I’m debating now whether or not to take “breaks.” The app recommends having seasons with gaps, and I might do that, basically have the show run along side the school year (without a Christmas break) and end it at my birthday, then record a few over the summer and start up again at the end of August.

Or maybe I’ll just keep barreling through. We’ll see.

Keep listening. I make a grand total of 15 dollars for every 1000 listens!

New episode, and presentation approaches

There’s a new episode about “fluency” – another concept used to discriminate – that you can and should and listen to here.

My presentation on “The Altruistic Shield” is Friday. It’s my first time bringing in my whole self and my real, original ideas out into an academic space, hoping that people agree and support what I’m saying.

It’s a big deal to me, and hopefully someone new (as opposed to some of my friends and colleagues I hope will attend) comes, listens, and learns something from me. Because ultimately, that’s what I want: to teach and generate knowledge on race and racism in language education. Here’s hoping.